3 Ways to Treat Loss of Smell From Covid-19
A doctor outlines potential approaches
At first glance, anosmia, or loss of smell, may seem like a trivial consequence of Covid-19 when compared to the other vital organ systems that can be affected. However, smell plays a key role in our daily lives and can easily be taken for granted until it’s suddenly gone.
Of the five senses, smell is the one most closely associated with memory and emotion. Smell is practical. It tells us when a peach is ripe, when the milk has gone bad, and when we need to bathe. Simply put, smell is important. When a disease like the novel coronavirus takes it away, we understandably want it back. I’ll cover some potential ways that can be accomplished, but first let’s examine how infection and smell are related.
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SARS-CoV-2 isn’t the first pathogen to cause anosmia. Common cold viruses such as the rhinovirus and some of the other coronaviruses trigger inflammation of the sinus tissue, called sinusitis, which can lead to loss of smell. Bacteria can also cause sinusitis. Bacterial sinus infections are sometimes treated with antibiotic medications, but unfortunately antibiotics don’t work in treating viral infections.
The novel coronavirus is especially damaging to a human’s sense of smell because the surface proteins SARS-CoV-2 binds to in order to enter our body’s cells happen to be abundant on the smell receptors of our nasal passages. As a result, the virus can easily penetrate and destroy our cells responsible for detecting fragrances. Anosmia frequently occurs early in the course of illness and, in some cases, is the only Covid-19 symptom a patient may experience.
A recent prospective study of more than 200 patients with impaired smell or taste related to Covid-19 showed that four weeks into the illness, 49% recovered their sense of smell or taste, 41% experienced improvement, and 11% had persistent loss of the sensation. An associated commentary was published in July by Joshua Levy, MD, MPH, an otolaryngologist at Emory University in…